back to article Congress bails out telcos for illegal snooping

Congress has largely capitulated to White House demands for widespread immunity for the telecoms industry, the New York Times reported on Thursday. Although Congressional Democrats claimed the compromise reached between Democrats and Republicans as a victory for the rule of law, the real winners in this action are the telecoms …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    No surprises here, move along!

    Your liberties, what tattered remains there was of them, were sold long ago for thirty pieces. I am just so surprised it took as long as 24 years to get here....

  2. Adam Foxton

    Retroactive law-making

    Surely can't be legal? "It's now illegal for anyone with a skintone darker than my own to live in this country after 2001 on pain of death. On grounds of terrorism and child-protection. Fire at will, gentlemen."

    So the lawsuits should still be able to go ahead- if found guilty the telcos could still be granted a presidential pardon if he's really chummy with them.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    The United States of Fascism

    By the State, For the State.

  4. Stuart Van Onselen


    ...I thought that the *Democrats* won the congressional elections of 2006. Seems I was mistaken.

  5. Stuart Van Onselen


    I'm no expert, but I seem to recall that retroactive lawmaking is explicitly outlawed by a certain "damned piece of paper."

  6. DrStrangeLug


    If you can grant immunity retroactively then surely you can remove it retroactively as well ? Could the next US present (hint: the younger one) remove it and press charges ?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    like polishing a turd

    "gives a patina of legitimacy to the administration’s activities"

  8. Walter Brown

    The law is an interesting animal in the US

    US law makers can pass what ever bills they like, that doesn't mean the law will stand... once the bill is signed in to law, all the interest groups will immediately challenge the law in federal courts, its up to the courts to determine the constitutionality of the law, which in this case it doesn't, the constitution clearly states no post de facto law may be passed.

    so in affect, this bill will prove to be a huge waste of tax payers money...

  9. Kevin Kitts

    Re: DrStrangeLug

    Once immunity is granted, it is a legal contract with regards to the justice system. In other words, once it's done, it's done forever.

    If the bill actually passes, it also green-lights future trespasses on the behalf of the telcos. Resignations like Nixon's will never happen again, because the government will ALWAYS be able to wiretap in an matter what the president defines "emergency" to be that week. I used to be a political scientist, so I know the loopholes. If congress didn't define emergency in the bill, then both parties will be able to take advantage of it and make the 4th amendment null and void at-will.

    They talk on the news about Michelle Obama's phrase about being proud of our country. If this bill passes, I will not only be unproud of our country, I will be afraid of our country. VERY afraid.

    On a personal note, this isn't the country I grew up in. I don't recognize it anymore (and all that in only 8 years). God help us all.

  10. Trevor Pott Gold badge


    You are kidding, right?

    Please tell me you don't actually believe that the USians will get a president of honesty, integrity, nobility and honour.

    If you aren't aware, the USians of today are not the same people who told an imperialistic Britain to P*ss off, forged a back-room alliance with France, (and by extension her allies), and together started a revolution that would sweep around the world

    Today’s USians (and for that matter, UKians,) would love for the world to change, but not if they have to miss an episode of House to do it. The US and the UK have lost their way. Somewhere they got “capitalism” confused with “democracy” and they fight and die for one thing in the name of another.

    Unfortunately, as we can see demonstrated by the shining beacon of the crumbling United Kingdom, even countries which prided themselves on democracy and a supportive state can fall to ruin, leaving a soulless shell blasted and devoid of liberties or social support. As a mirror of that, from watching the inexorable degeneration of the US, it’s a short leap to see NHS gone in Britain, and from there, the remains of whatever social programs exist.

    Now I know I will be called a heretic, a communist, and other things by the devout believers in the moral exceptionalism of their respective nations, however the belief that a ‘savior’ will come along in either (or both) of these nations suddenly restore them to the positions of social and moral leadership they once occupied is insanity.

    The denizens of either of these countries can not unify to enough to even mass protest issues that cause universal angst and strife. (Gas prices, for example.) To think that forward motion would be achieved on issues that benefit the individual at the expense of the state, but in which the denizens of these countries either aren’t universally aware, or universally in agreement is madness.

    Laws are made by the people who can ensure, or threaten the electability of a politician. With the growing apathy of a disenfranchised and increasingly self-centric populace, that power rests now almost entirely in the hands of the corporations with the money and will to exercise this fact.

    No single politician could ever change this, nor would any politician so dare. To place faith in this process which has so evidently and spectacularly failed is to deny the need for a revolution to take place to bring democracy to the countries that at one point championed it.

    And for the record, on this matter, I would dearly, dearly love to be wrong.

  11. Chris C


    So Congress created yet another law outlawing what the President and NSA have done? If the then-existing laws didn't stop them, what makes Congress think this new law will? I would also love to know how granting retroactive immunity for illegal activities can possibly be construed as "a victory for the rule of law".

  12. Jim Black

    To all of the above

    The US has been accused to violating every "right" imaginable, including that of breathing, by people who sit on their larded arses and do nothing but flaunt their ability to string words together. All of the comments above and the original article have one thing in common - they accuse the US of being totalitarian and dictatorial and of suppressing dissident expression. Distortions all except for the blatant falsehoods.

    The very fact that you can sit on your arse and complain without being physically harmed (as in the Third Reich, Soviet Russia, and any Muslim country today) is a testament to show you are all completely filled with the solid droppings of the well-fed male ox.

    A pox on your evil houses.

  13. cybersaur

    Be afraid

    The fascists rule America now. We are no longer a Constitutional Democracy. The rest of the world should be very afraid. And you damn well better not have the gaul to have your country on top of our oil.

  14. Jim Black

    Forgotten note

    Adding to the previous note:

    The US has no provision for limiting outgoing immigration. For anyone who thinks it is better somewhere else, take advantage of this policy and GET YOUR ASS OUT!

  15. DZ-Jay

    Re: To all of the above

    >> "The very fact that you can sit on your arse and complain without being physically harmed [...] is a testament to show you are all completely filled with the solid droppings of the well-fed male ox."

    But what some are saying is that the very right to dissent is being infringed or annulled already; at times with some grave consequences. Secret arrests, extraordinary renditions, military tribunals, indefinite detention without charges; the Third Reich and Soviet Russia would indeed be proud.


  16. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    This experiment in democracy has been over since at least Jimmy Carter

    "All of the comments above and the original article have one thing in common - they accuse the US of being totalitarian and dictatorial and of suppressing dissident expression."

    S'truth. The cool thing about the US is that you can dissent all you want as long as you keep to words and to writing pamphlets in obscure journals. Once you get out of your house and into real politics that do not include playing along with the capos, prepare for a smearing campaign in the high-brow press (WaPo, NYT, FT, WSJ and other shite), critical examination of your "patriotism", surveillance by several of the three-letter agencies, accusations of being "soft", a "terrorist", a "liberal" or a "muslim lover", willification by Rush Limbaugh and other retards of the same ilk, hounding by assorted right-wing patriots and swift-boating by fly-by-night lobbies.

    Something like a "Verteiltes Volkspropagandaministerium". Unique, really.

  17. Chris C

    re: To all of the above

    Wow. It sounded like you actually believed that tripe you spouted. The fact that I am allowed to post a comment on an internet forum without physical harm does not mean:

    1) that my rights to religion, speech, press, and assembly have not been violated (just try saying the "wrong" thing and see how fast you end up in Guantanamo Bay, or try peacefully assembling to legally protest and see how fast the police start arresting people)

    2) that my right against unreasonable search and seizure has not been violated (warrant? we don't need no stinkin' warrant)

    3) that my right to due process has not been violated (what was that about detaining suspects indefinitely without allowing them access to a lawyer?)

    4) that my right to confront my accuser has not been violated (sorry, your honor, but it's a state secret, a matter of national security; you'll just have to trust us)

    5) my right against cruel and unusual punishment (hello, waterboarding!)

    7) my rights in choosing the President (or did you forget how Florida and Ohio admitted to throwing out votes, plus the artificial barriers in Florida to prevent people in certain districts from voting, plus overlooking inconsistencies in the electronic voting machine tallies?)

    And those are just the rights granted by the Constitution amendments. But I guess since I can post this without being waterboarded, I must be imagining the loss of those rights. You are correct, however, that I can legally leave this country. Of course, if I'm one of the hundreds of thousands of people on the no-fly list, I won't be able to leave via airplane. And if a border patrol agent thinks I don't quite look right, I may be detained permanently and not allowed to leave. But if they want to let me leave, then I can leave. It's like the old saying goes -- you can do anything you want, as long as it's what I want you to do.

    On a final note, I do still believe that the US is one of the best countries in the world in certain ways. But that's really not saying a lot. It certainly isn't something to brag about when you take a look at the country and how far it's fallen in so short a time span. It reminds me of the people that say the US has a better human rights record than China. It may be true, but it doesn't say a lot for the good old "Land of the Free".

  18. Watashi

    Death of Liberalism, and the rise of Neo-Conservatism

    It is easily forgotten that both Stalin and Hitler achieved their totalitarian states with the support (often tacit, but also often active) of a large section of the population. This was achieved in both cases by persuading the population that social chaos can only be avoided by treating certain social, political, ethnic or religious groups as a dangerous threat the average 'hard working, right-minded' member of what is now called the 'silent majority'.

    In the UK we are seeing exactly the same propaganda at work. Recent examples of this propaganda include treating Muslims as being prone to 'radicalisation', treating young, black people as all potentially part of an unstoppable 'gang culture', branding young white boys from poor backgrounds as drunken 'yobs', and now by claiming that porn addicts are sexual deviants only one step away from becoming paedophiles or rapists. Using 'protection of society' fear-mongering, the government gains the approval of the fearful and selfish majority of the population, and are therefore given free reign to start oppressing minorities right under the eyes of the very voters whose democratic instincts are supposed to prevent this happening.

    Once we have reached this point there is not much to be achieved by any one person sticking their head above the parapet. Macarthyism showed that taking individual direct action against a fear-mongering propaganda machine gets you branded a traitor and ruins your life. Instead, it is necessary to form a social counter-movement that exploits the weaknesses of the authoritarian state - namely, that authoritarian leaders are usually irrational, anti-intellectual, and paranoid of showing any sign of weakness.

    If we are to prevent a further slide towards NeoConservative socialism/fascism, then it’s up to intelligent and objective people to ignore the Statist fanboys and pick apart every single stupid rule New Labour introduces. This is happening widely now, and Brown's continued idiocy is currently pointed out on a daily basis (eg, discovering that many of Brown's soon to be closed 'failing' schools actually get good or even excellent ratings from school inspectors, or that Brown wants to lock people up for 42 days to protect us, yet lets his staff break basic rules of information security).

    There is now a below-the-radar battle taking place in Britain; Brown has a large segment of 'the masses' on his side when it comes to many policy areas, but the liberals have a growing number of intellectuals (even former New Labour cronies like Lord Goldsmith) on their side. At the moment, the rational people are desperately waiting for Brown to get kicked out at the next election. If he doesn't, the shit is seriously going to hit the fan, and I think we'll start to see the kind of social chaos that Brown thinks he's helping avoid. It won't happen at the level of the typical 'protect society at all costs' electorate, but at the level of the social elite - that is, the civil service, the military elite, the Judiciary, the Eurocrats, academics and scientists, and Company directors. A PM needs their support just as much as he needs that of the voters... unless he truly is the next Hitler, in which case he will simply use a combination of 'loyalist' security forces and malevolent mob rule to overcome anyone who questions his authority.

    Fortunately, the state of the economy is really scaring people, and that’s probably enough to over-ride the propaganda machine. Self-interest of the most basic kind (ie, food prices, housing shortage, fuel costs etc) will usually over-ride self-interest on a more abstract level. The next election will be the first true test of democracy this country has seen in a long time - if Brown loses, democracy wins.

  19. Quantum


    By Jim Black

    Posted Friday 20th June 2008 20:24 GMT

    "The US has no provision for limiting outgoing immigration. For anyone who thinks it is better somewhere else, take advantage of this policy and GET YOUR ASS OUT!"

    I tried to leave Jim Black, when Cheney was re-Coronated. But standards for admission to the EU have been raised so high that I did not qualify. It seems they now want to -keep out- Americans. They require that either I:

    - Secure in advance a job, for which the employer will certify that no EU citizen can do it; or

    - Marry an EU national, and I'm too old and ugly for that.

    Impossible. And Canada is way too close to the spinning out of control US, and will be dragged down with it. BTW, I am a native Texan.

    Let me ask you this, Jim Black: What about the several $trillion in tax credits for the Rich, which the Cheney Administration gave out in their early years? Weren't they supposed to 'kick-start a prosperity like the world has never seen'? What happened to all that? Where did that mountain of money go?

    I'll tell you what happened: All that money went straight into bonds, so the cut to our economy was a double-edged sword.

    - That money was taken out of circulation, whereas it had been lubricating the economy and creating jobs before; and

    - It fed the government's ravenous borrowing, from the spending and spending and spending of the Cheney Administration, to the point that the national debt is now over $9.5 TRILLION, and rising!

    Since you have no idea what a $TRILLION is, divide the national debt by the US population, and you will find that it is now over $30,000 owed by each man, woman, and child in the US for the federal debt alone, -in addition- to all their personal debt. Unpayable, even by us. Ever calculated the interest on only 10 $billion? A person can't even -spend- that much money. There just are not enough things to buy every year, including real estate!

    Wondered why the dollar has been dropping like a rock? It's because the rest of the world is not fooled, as you have been Jim Black. And in the event that you attempt to assert that Democrats spent to built up this debt, allow me to disabuse you of that notion:

    You have no idea Jim, nor any perspective of the dangerous Rightist policies you advocate. Your weak mind has fallen for the Rightist propaganda hook, line and sinker. You believe:

    But one thing's for sure: when you finally realize what you've done you will scurry and hide like a cockroach when the lights come on.

  20. John Savard

    Not the Problem

    We shouldn't be thinking of putting someone in jail who works for, or manages, a telephone company because he followed the direction of someone from the FBI or the NSA in letting them connect to their network to help find terrorists and prevent another September 11, 2001.

    Instead, it's the people from the government, with the power, not private citizens, involved in this who should potentially face legal penalties if what they did was genuinely improper. Although it may be found, shocking as it might be to some, that a jury might well agree that preventing thousands of innocent people from dying is more important than observing all legal formalities

  21. Aodhhan


    You risk anything being made public as soon as you tell someone. Whether it be your best friend, spouse, family member etc. I bet you aren't as hard on them when they tell someone else one of your "secrets".

    As soon as the government puts you in jail for a conversation of yours which isn't criminal, related to terrorism etc, then you have a gripe. Until then, get real and look at yourself.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The only terrorists I am afraid of is the government of the United States of America. As a "foreign national" I don't have to worry about little things like due process. G Dubya has "declared into place" laws which say they he can, abduct me from my country, hold me for as long as he wants without charges, even torture me for information I most likely don't have, or want to have. The American government doesn't have to tell my family or my government where I am, or why I was taken. If I cross their border, they have the right to arbitrarily search and seize my personal property. Even flying from one of the cities in my country to another city in my country takes me over American airspace, so everything about me has to be sent to and stored by the American government.

    Despite having signed numerous agreements about “free trade” with the Americans, my country is constantly threatened with massive economic (and not-so-subtle military, depending on the issue) threats whenever we choose to sell less of a “critical resource” to America, and instead sell to another country, which would pay more for that same resource, or, shock and dismay, sell those goods to our own people, instead of America.

    I am sick unto death of my country being forced into selling all our lumber, food, electrical generating capacity, oil, and even more to the Americans, when we ourselves oftentimes can’t find these items, or have to pay prices far in excess of what they are sold to America for. China would pay us far more, and we could keep some of it for our own use for once. Don’t you dare try to say this is the fault of our government either, because when we did elect a government willing to make changes to benefit our people instead of the Americans, there were military threats about “ensuring the stability of supply for resources vital to national security.” (Read: OIL and ELECTRICITY.)

    How does the American wiretapping affect me? Why, because I would cheerfully like the ability to take part in the planning and execution of a resistance movement if the Americans ever invade my country too. Hard to do that with them listening in.

    Or in other words: yes, I too have things to hide. Who I slept with, and when, when the stripper arrives for my buddy’s bachelor party, oh, and yes, where the weapons are buried. Until the Americans invade, I’m just a nutcase survivalist. When they do invade, I instantly become a terrorist. Interesting how that’s the American term for someone defending their own home.

    Anonymous Coward for obvious reasons.

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